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  • bethstephenson123

A Strange, New Land.

A millennium ago, families set out in their long canoes across the sea, travelling (assumably) from Fiji, going almost due south. With them, they brought rats and dogs to a new land, known today world wide as "New Zealand."

The only animals they encountered either flew or swam to the islands. The only non-aquatic mammals were bats.

By the time Able Tasman a Dutch explorer, came to New Zealand in the 17th century, the Maori people were well-established, living in tribes and living off of sea food, birds and sweet potato, taro, bottle gourd and yam.

The land under the Land Down Under is a country of striking beauty and fragile habitats to unique animals. Can you see the little penguins in this photo? Yep, they're native, along with the yellow-eyed penguins, that come ashore in the evening.

Unfortunately, the Europeans introduced new mammals which further upset the ecology. The introduced mammals, (including humans) ate birds and their eggs, leading to more than 40 species' extinction. The Moa was much larger than an ostrich, (bones show it to be up to 10 feet tall,) flightless, lived in wetlands, and was reportedly delicious. It's large eggs were apparently delicious to the rats and possums.

Now though rabbits pose a serious threat, the possums are eating New Zealand alive. They're native to Australia and were introduced on purpose. Their fur is blended with merino wool to make soft yarn, they (apparently) taste good and they only eat plants. But they multiply like crazy and have no natural predators in New Zealand. New Zealand is actively trying to eradicate them, but it's a losing battle, so far.

The Maori people are known for their facial tattoos, (Ta Moko) indicate their heritage and are each unique to the wearer. Women tattoo only their chins but as with this fellow, (so sorry I can't find their names!) the men may cover their entire face. Not all people of Maori descent choose to receive the facial tattoos.

The Maori work to preserve their culture, though Maori descended people represent only about 17% of New Zealanders. Their culture is tied to their ancient crafts (stone and wood carving as well as basket weaving) and strong ties to family, including praying to ancestors. This young man is a woodcarver in the Maori Cultural Center school.

This elaborately carved storehouse for protecting food from pests stands outside the community center.

Inside the community center

There are geysers and boiling mud pots nearby, too!

But of all the strange and wonderful sites of New Zealand, I think the close encounters with albatross near Fort Taiaroa, whose wings can span three meters, were one of my most favorites. They can fly for months without touching land, with a range of over a thousand miles. Here's the favorite albatross picture I got.

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